July 19, 2012
Today, NOAA officials briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill and released the official report on the first year of the groundfish catch share program.
From the Introduction:
While the results presented in this report reflect only one year of data, a picture is emerging that is indeed positive for the groundfish resource, the fishermen, and their communities.
Download the 16-page report in the PDF below.
Fourth-generation Half Moon Bay fisherman Geoff Bettencourt fishes for groundfish, crab and salmon. He and his sister, Lisa Bettencourt-Damrosch, genuinely thought that their proposal to acquire unloading and fish-buying dock space at Pillar Point Harbor was the most complete and competitive of the four proposals being considered by the San Mateo County Harbor District. They reportedly: met all the minimum requirements (unlike competing seafood companies); offered $800 more per month than their competitors; and envisioned making $60,000 in repairs and improvements. Their proposal was rejected, however, and the state Department of Boating & Waterways is now investigating.
January is traditionally a time to reflect on the year just past, and to look forward as well. For many of the men and women who fish off Oregon's coast, this month marks an especially important milestone.
One year ago, Oregon's commercial groundfish trawlers, based out of Astoria, Newport, Coos Bay and Brookings embarked on the 2011 fishing season under an entirely new fishery management program known as a "catch share" system. The new system was the product of years of painstaking public process involving the Pacific Fishery Management Council, fishermen, scientists, seafood processors, community leaders and members of the environmental community.
In developing and adapting to catch shares, fishermen and fishery managers squarely addressed a litany of systemic problems that were largely the result of irrational, one-size-fits-all, status quo management. These included persistent problems with overfished species; restrictive fishing seasons that were completely disconnected from weather and market conditions; and, perhaps worst of all, regulations that forced fishermen to throw overboard thousands of pounds of perfectly good seafood. Discarding good fish is something that every fisherman hates, but regulations left them with no practical choice in the matter.
By assigning every trawler a percentage-based annual quota of each species' total allowable harvest, catch share management has changed the fishing business. Intense competition has been replaced with cooperation and information-sharing among fishermen. Now, fishermen target their catch more accurately, do a better job of avoiding overfished species, and fish safer.
The fishery observers that trawlers are now required to have onboard take up scarce space and mean another mouth to feed, but they provide the assurance of 100% catch accountability – no fishery in the world has a higher standard – along with the reliable scientific data that fishery managers will need in order to adjust allowable catches in the future. Meanwhile, those universally-hated discards have gone from 20-30% of the total catch to about 1% in a single year – an amazing turnaround that every Oregonian can feel good about – I know I do.
Many fishermen were understandably wary going into the 2011 season, fearing that such a dramatic regulatory shift might put them out of business; but I've noticed that those fears are turning to optimism down on the docks. Although fishermen still face daunting challenges – the cost of onboard observers for one – the catch share program has put most of the decision-making back in the hands of skippers where it belongs. Now they can schedule fishing trips when market and weather conditions are favorable, and deliver a higher-quality product to shoreside buyers. And that, in turn, is one of the factors that is starting to lead to an increase in the prices they receive for their catch. In the midst of a prolonged economic downturn, who would have thought that one of Oregon's economic bright spots would be the commercial fishing boats that deliver sole, cod and rockfish into our local harbors?
As the first year of catch shares ends, I am more hopeful than I have been in years about the future of this major American fishery. And I think I speak for all our coastal fishermen when I wish you a Happy New Year that includes lots of Oregon-caught seafood.
Brad Pettinger is director of the Oregon Trawl Commission.
On December 1st, NMFS announced the launch of new account balances pages on the IFQ Groundfish website. Tabs at that site now open up new pages that provide Quota Share Account Balances and Vessel Account Balances.
The National Marine Fisheries Service announces the first bilateral meeting of the Pacific Whiting Joint Technical Committee (JTC) to begin implementation of the Whiting Treaty will be held in Seattle on Monday and Tuesday, November 28-29, 2011. Meeting details are in the PDF below.
Vince Patton | November 9, 2011 | Warrenton, OR
Trawl fishing on the west coast is a very different business this year. That’s because trawlers need to follow new rules that set individual quotas for how many fish they can catch. The industry calls it the biggest change in 50 years.
The goal is to reduce-over fishing, and to stop trawlers from throwing out fish they don’t want. The program is also designed to make the fishing business more predictable. But the so-called “catch share” system could also drive more trawlers out of business.
To see what has changed, Oregon Field Guide's Vince Patton spent a day with one fisherman on the high seas.
The Cape Windy is a small boat as trawlers go -- 58 feet long. Paul Kujala's one of the small operators. He and the entire west coast trawl fleet have a whole new set of rules to follow this year. Kujala needs to obey them -- and stay in business.
"Well I’m trying hard to stay in it, What gives me hope is we have, lower expenses than…than a lot of other trawlers. Because I take only one deckhand with me," Kujala said.
"There’s relatively few fishermen left than there has been in the past. And so it is a pretty small world now," Kujala said.
Kujala's is one of just 120 trawlers left on the West Coast.
In the 1990's there were 500. On this day, Kujala leaves port in Warrenton, crosses the Columbia Bar and finds a favorite fishing spot about 14 miles off the Oregon coast.
He trawls the muddy ocean floor for ground fish. Every time he pulls in his nets, he's making a bet. A gamble that he'll catch the fish he wants - and avoid the kinds that have been overfished and could get him in trouble.
Kujala pulls in a net full of flat, brown fish. It's just what he expected to find here.
"The majority of what this tow has in it is Dover Sole. This is the Dover Sole here," he said.
He drops the net again in the same spot.
This time he brings up a stunning surprise.
"I can't believe it," he laughed. "They’re Canary Rockfish. What are the odds? I've never had a tow like this in my life. This is what normally you’re trying to avoid," he said.
It's hard to imagine a worse fish to catch. Canary rockfish are highly restricted. And he didn't just land a few. He's got a deck full of hundreds of the bright orange fish.
A year ago, these fish would have been illegal to bring back to dock. He'd just discard them. Throw them overboard.
Now, he can bring them in and sell them. But every pound is tallied. Kujala is worried he just exceeded his annual canary rockfish quota in one tow. Until he knows for sure, all fishing stops. He pulls in his nets and spends the next 3 hours on pins and needles. He's got to return to port where he can compare his quota to what he's caught this year.
"I’ve probably not caught more than five fish in one tow in my entire life," he explained.
"And I’ve fished here a lot," he said laughing. "But that's the way it goes. That's fishing," he said.
The individual quota system is brand new this year. Under the old system all the trawl boats shared a quota. If one boat caught too much of a particularly threatened kind of fish, then every trawler on the west coast had to stop fishing.
The new system divvies up the quotas boat by boat. Now if someone catches too much of one fish, only that boat gets shut down.
Brad Pettinger heads the Oregon Trawl Commission. He says the trawl industry itself pushed for this radical overhaul.
"This is probably the biggest changes in the fisheries probably the last fifty years," Pettinger said.
So what we’ve asked for is basically, let’s have something that does this better. Let’s have something that reduces the waste, gives a certainty to the market. People can plan. Let’s treat it like a business," he said.
To make sure that each boat follows the rules, there's a built-in enforcer. Every boat must now carry a paid observer who weighs and counts each fish.
The observer on Kujala's boat counts more than 600 pounds of canary rockfish. After nine hours at sea, the Cape Windy returns to the dock in Warrenton. Kujala heads to a computer to check the quota website. Sure enough, he's caught at least 48 pounds more canary rockfish than he’s allowed.
Kujala still has one option: now he can try to bargain for part of another trawler’s Canary rock fish quota.
"So we got to…we’ve got to be real nice to somebody else so we can get forty-eight pounds of Canary’s from them, to cover what we caught there that one tow. And, we won’t be able to go fishing until we do," he explained.
The new "catch share" program aims to protect threatened species by preventing over fishing. It gives a much more accurate picture of how many fish have been caught. And far fewer unwanted fish are being thrown overboard.
The Trawl Commission's Brad Pettinger says that the discard rate has dropped from 25 percent a year ago to less then 5 percent this fall.
"By and large, people are gonna fish cleaner. Because they know that whatever they do, they’re gonna have to account for it," he said.
As for Kujala, he's still not sure what he thinks of the new system.
"So far it’s the jury’s still out a little bit. There’s pluses and minuses. so the individual accountability was attractive to a lot of the fishermen, so that you couldn’t step on my toes, I couldn’t step on yours. Now, with the individual catch shares, individually we all have a certain amount of fish," Kuajala said.
Kuajala spends the next day horse-trading. A fellow trawler agrees to a deal and gives him enough Canary Rockfish quota to cover his unwanted haul. The Cape Windy is back to fishing again.
© 2011 OPB
Note: This is the second in a series of grants being made by the Fisheries Innovation Fund. The first set of awards included grants to the Fishermen's Marketing Association and Buccaneer Fisheries, here on the West Coast, for work in the areas of electronic monitoring and halibut excluder design and testing.
(Washington, D.C.) – Fisheries managers, fishermen, nonprofit organizations and others with a stake in America’s fisheries now have additional resources to put their innovative ideas into action. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced the second round of grants available from its Fisheries Innovation Fund, a public-private partnership to foster the design and implementation of new and ground-breaking ideas for sustainable fisheries practices.
“The Fisheries Innovation Fund supports communities across the country that are working to sustain one of our nation’s most important ocean resources,” said NFWF Executive Director and CEO Jeff Trandahl. “In just 12 months, the Fund has proven that new ideas and creative approaches to sustainability can have a positive impact on fisheries from coast to coast, and we are committed to assisting this process.”
According to Lynn Langford Walton of the Ilwaco Fishermen and Marketing Cooperative in Washington State, a 2010 grant recipient, “Support from the fund is allowing us to work more aggressively in the development of a program that is already helping us to access more target fish with fewer bycatch interactions. Though there is much still to do, this support is vital to our effort to establish a solid, replicable means of keeping our vessels and crews on the [fishing] grounds and working.”
NFWF’s Fisheries Innovation Fund, introduced in 2010, encourages the participation of fishermen and fishing communities in the implementation of sustainable fisheries in the U.S. It promotes the development of safer, more profitable fisheries that meet catch limits and eliminate overfishing. In its initial year, the Fund awarded nearly $2.25 million to 18 projects in the northeastern U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific coast and Alaska. In 2012, the Fund expects to award $1.1 to $2 million for 15 projects across the country. Details on the Request for Proposals are available at www.nfwf.org/fisheriesfund .
“These grants help unleash the expert knowledge and creativity of fishermen and communities,” said Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “The Fund is already supporting testing and evaluation of new ideas to build capacity in fishing communities and improve their sustainability, which is a win-win solution for stakeholders and managers.”
Rob Snyder of the Island Institute in Rockland, Maine, a 2010 grant recipient, says “Our project with Ecotrust supports a network of fishing community trusts across the country by providing new business, organizational management and planning tools that are essential to the economic viability of fishing communities in our current environment.”
The Fund is made possible through a partnership with NOAA and additional support from the Walton Family Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Potential applicants can learn more by logging on to www.nfwf.org/applicantinfo .
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is a leader in the conservation and restoration of the nation’s native fish and wildlife species and habitats. Created by Congress in 1984, NFWF establishes partnerships that invest public conservation dollars matched with private funds to meet pressing environmental needs. NFWF has a long and successful history of working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish public-private partnerships to support the agency’s conservation priorities.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 8, 2011
Media Contacts:David Jincks, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative: (541) 270-3208Brent Paine, United Catcher Boats: (206) 282-2599Shems Jud, Environmental Defense Fund: (503) 358-7053 (Court decision appneded below in PDF.)
Judge Breyer dismisses PCFFA lawsuit; ruling clears way for West Coast trawlers to improve new catch share system
Last Friday, Judge Charles Breyer (U.S. District Court, Northern District of California) dismissed a lawsuit that sought to halt the recently enacted West Coast groundfish trawl rationalization program. That lawsuit had been brought by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) and a handful of other groups against the Secretary of Commerce, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Under development since 2003, the trawl rationalization program was designed with significant input from industry, NGOs and other stakeholders to reduce bycatch of overfished and other sensitive stocks, while enabling the fishery to recover economically from a federal disaster declaration in 2000. Some of those stakeholders – the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, the United Catcher Boats and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) – supported NOAA and NMFS with an amicus brief in support of the federal defendants’ successful request for summary judgment and dismissal of the suit.
PCFFA’s lawsuit alleged, among other things, that the fishery rationalization program violates national standards requiring management measures to prevent overfishing and to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality to the extent possible.
The judge rejected the plaintiff’s arguments, however, highlighting NMFS’ argument that the program would:
“increase individual accountability for total catch, including bycatch, and would give fishermen greater discretion as to when and how to fish. This would be expected to provide greater opportunity to extract the full (optimum yield) of higher biomass species while avoiding lower biomass species. The 100 percent monitoring and increased accountability should reduce the risk of overfishing.”
“And in fact that is exactly what we’ve seen in the fishery so far,” said David Jincks, president of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative. “The flexibility in the program has allowed fishermen who also fish for crab and shrimp to take advantage of strong seasons on those species, without fear of losing their groundfish landings as they would have in the past. And also, unlike previous seasons, the bycatch of overfished species is tracking very low, relative to the catch of target species off the coast. That’s exactly the kind of good news we were looking for out of this program.”
Fishery stakeholders can now focus attention on refining and improving the new catch share program.
“Now that the program has passed legal muster, we can focus on making the new management system a success for the fleet,” said Shems Jud, EDF’s Deputy Regional Director for the Pacific Coast. “Specifically, we’re working with fishermen to address the projected costs of management, the fleet’s responsibility for covering onboard observer costs, and a pre-existing 5% buyback fee. These are real challenges for the fleet, so we are advocating constructive new approaches that will help as many fishermen as possible to succeed.”
* * *
Federal Court upholds West Coast IFQ system for groundfish in 2nd victory this year for catch shares
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton Aug 8, 2011
For the second time this year, a federal court has unequivocally upheld a NOAA catch share program as meeting the requirements of Magnuson's national standards.
On Friday, Charles Breyer, a judge in the Northern District of California, upheld a summary judgment dismissing a lawsuit agains the west coast groundfish IFQ program brought by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations.
A similar lawsuit was decided in favor of NOAA in Massachusetts earlier this year.
The West coast suit argued over Amendment 20, that split West coast groundfish among offshore, inshore, and mothership sectors, and assigned IFQ's to the sectors based on catch history.
The court said “Amendment 20 was enacted following a lengthy process. It divides the trawl sector into three main programs: shorebased to be managed by IFQs; mothership; and co-op programs. It includes an individual accountability system whereby all catch by shorebased trawl vessels count against the individual trawl participant's shares,
including retained and discarded catch. Because discards by shorebased trawlers count against their quotas, the belief is that they will have a strong incentive to fish more responsibly.” Also the plan calls for extensive observer coverage.
Trawlers with limited entry permits received an initial allocation of 80% of the whiting and 90% of the nonwhiting Quota Share and shoreside processors were granted 20% of the whiting Quota Share, and 10% of the nonwhiting Quota Share was set aside as part of an Adaptive Management Program (“AMP”) to be used after program implementation to address adverse impacts, such as community instability, processor instability, and conservation.
In Oct. 2010, plaintiffs filed suit challenging the creation and distribution of individual fishing quota shares to qualifying trawl permit owners, “locking into place the dominance of bottom trawl fishing in this major ocean fishery.”
In addition, the plaintiffs said that the plan failed to include communities in the allocation decisions, and that such inclusion was required by Magnuson.
The court found NOAA's groundfish plan, which had been under development for nearly six years, fully met all the national standards in Magnuson, and issued a summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit.
Some of the material from the court docket on the various standards is printed below.
National Standard 4 provides in part:
If it becomes necessary to allocate or assign fishing privileges
among various United States fishermen, such allocation shall be
(A) fair and equitable to all such fishermen; (B) reasonably
calculated to promote conservation; and (C) carried out in such
manner that no particular individual, corporation, or other entity
acquires an excessive share of such privileges.
16 U.S.C. § 1851(a)(4). “The Secretary is allowed . . . to sacrifice the interests of some
groups of fishermen, for the benefit as the Secretary sees it of the fishery as a whole.”
Alliance Against IFQs v. Brown, 84 F.3d 343, 350 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted); 50
C.F.R. § 600.325(c)(3)(i)(B).
Plaintiffs' argument appears to be that trawl rationalization's principal purpose is to
promote economic efficiency, and any conservation gains are secondary to that purpose.
Plaintiffs fail to show how Amendment 20 is not “reasonably calculated to promote
conservation” or is not “fair and equitable” to trawlers subject to the IFQ Program.
For example, with respect to conservation, the Amendment 20 EIS provides that:
The proposed action is intended, in part, to reduce bycatch and
improve total catch accounting. Some important components of
the trawl rationalization program that will promote conservation
are (1) 100 percent observer coverage and dockside monitoring .
. ., (2) increased individual accountability . . . reduc[ing] the risk
of OY overages, (3) increased target catches and minimized
bycatch, (4) reduced number of active fishing vessels and
increased operating efficiency may reduce gear and habitat or
protected species interactions, and (5) allowing trawlers to
switch to longline or pot gear may reduce some habitat impacts.
Based on the administrative record, the NMFS's determinations about Amendment
20's “reasonable” likelihood of promoting conservation are supported.
Nor has the method of distribution of limited access privileges among the fishermen been shown to be unfair or inequitable.
National Standard 4 requires only that a measure be reasonably calculated to promote
conservation. It does not say that promoting economic efficiency is an impermissible goal, provided, as here, that a measure that promotes economic efficiency also is “reasonably calculated” to promote conservation.
By itself, an IFQ program may have few direct conservation
benefits, but substantial indirect benefits. . . . . [Program]
features [such as catch accountability and observer coverage] are
expected to reduce or eliminate regulatory byctach substantially
. . . which has been a big problem in the groundfish fishery as
currently managed . . . . If not adequately accounted for, this
bycatch contributes to excess mortality and misspecification of
future OYs. In addition, IFQs can motivate fishermen to avoid
stocks with low harvest limits . . . because scarcity value drives
up share prices for these stocks. . . . . It could also be argued
that an IFQ program, because of share value to yield, would
stimulate a conservative ethic among fishermen . . . .
The record supports that these objectives were a meaningful part of the purpose of the trawl rationalization program, such that Plaintiffs cannot show that Amendment 20's “sole
purpose” was “economic allocation.”
National Standard 8
The question thus becomes whether Amendment 20 does enough to “provide for the
sustained participation of” fishing communities and “to the extent practicable, minimize
adverse economic impacts on such communities.”
Balancing National Standard 8 with the other National Standards, Amendment 20 contains just enough provisions to provide for the sustained participation of fishing communities and to minimize adverse economic impacts to pass muster.
Those provisions, discussed in more detail above, include (1) keeping a split
between the at-sea and shoreside trawl sectors; (2) broad eligibility for quota ownership; (3) a moratorium on the transfer of Quota Share to ease transition; (4) vessel and owner limits to spread Quota Share among a wider group; (5) a community advisory committee; and (6) the AMP set-aside.
Although these measures might have been motivated in part by concerns other than just promotion of fishing communities' sustained participation in the fishery, National Standard 8 does not require that provisions to provide for the sustained
participation of fishing communities be designed exclusively for that reason.
For the foregoing reasons, Federal Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is
GRANTED, and Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.
San Francisco Chronicle: In the same way that you can pay up front to receive a once-a-week delivery of just-picked fruit and vegetables directly from a local farm, expect someday soon to enjoy that same convenient service with fresh seafood caught by Bay Area family fishermen.
The concept of community supported agriculture, in which consumers purchase a subscription or membership to a farm to receive seasonal produce boxes, has been transported from soil to sea in community supported fishery programs that have been popping up along the coastal United States. Now the first one in Northern California is set to begin on Friday at none other than Google.